Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 23, 2009

So now it's official -- MTA Capital Construction has pushed back the planned completion date for Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway to . . . somewhere between July 2016 and July 2017. This according various news reports (noted below) and this slide from a recent MTA board presentation.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the Federal Transit Administration apparently has an even more pessimistic view of the schedule. They now estimate the completion date to be somewhere between August 2017 and June 2018.

Oy vey!

Source: MTA Capital Construction presentation to the Construction, Planning and Real Estate Committee of the MTA Board - 7/22/09

These links provide much more detail on this sorry state of affairs:

Further Delays Possible for Second Avenue Subway"
The New York Times - 7/22/09

" 'You can hold me accountable': MTA construction chief says no more delays to Second Ave."
NY Daily News - 7/22/09

"Feds see possible $5.7B SAS completed in 2018"
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 7/23/09

"Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer Calls For Immediate Inspector General Investigation of New Delay in 2nd Avenue Subway"

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box:

Community Board 8 Presentation: Construction Update

"You Get in the Hole"
Life on Second - 7/14/09
drawings and commentary by the artist Dominick Santise

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21, 2009

Lots of Second Avenue Subway news today, so let's get started --

Pete Donohue, of the Daily News, has reported that the MTA might need to push back the in-service date for Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway to . . . 2017 !

This would be a 5 year delay, from the 2012 in-service date for Phase I that Peter Kalikow, the MTA Chairman at the time, announced back in 2005.

Here's his article:
"Second Avenue Subway setback: New hurdles will likely push phase one completion from 2015 to 2017"
NY Daily News - 7/21/09

The Times confirmed the report, with this story:
"Subway Line Along Second Ave. Delayed Till 2016"
The New York Times - 7/21/09

And Channel 7 broadcast this video report with the news:
"More Delays for 2nd Avenue Subway" (2:16)
WABC-TV/DT - 7/21/09

Benjamin Kabak went in to more detail with this
posting to his blog earlier today:
"More expensive Phase I of SAS may not open until 2017"
2nd Ave. Sagas - 7/21/09

- - -

According to the article "Senate GOP Killed 2nd Ave. Subway Bill" in the newspaper Our Town today, State Senator José Serrano has reportedly withdrawn Senate Bill S1393, a bill that would have provided for real estate tax abatement's for certain commercial properties effected by the Second Avenue Subway construction project.

The article said, "State Sen. José Serrano, the bill’s sponsor, [said he] yanked the legislation from the calendar during the July 16 session to prevent Republicans for voting the measure down at the recommendation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg."

The corresponding NY State Assembly bill [A3949], which is sponsored by State Assembly Member Micah Kellner, was passed by the Assembly on 6/22/09.

Assembly Member Kellner provided this piece of commentary on his web site, "So Where Does the Mayor Stand on 2nd Avenue Relief?," on 7/17/09.

- - -

And finally, here's a copy of a very interesting pair of comments (from the same writer) that was left on the blog (under the posting "June 29-20, 2009") earlier today. The writer says that she/he is a former resident of 301 East 92nd Street - the building that the Department of Buildings (DOB) ordered evacuated on 6/29/09 because it is in danger of collapse.

"I was a tenant in this building who was evacuated - the DOB used my apartment to cut into the drywall and measure the angle of the outer walls.

When I moved in two years ago, the building was visibly leaning (the walls in my apt on the top floor were slanted) but I chalked this up to the wonky angles of any old building.

During my time there, the problem seemed to increase: pre-existing cracks in the drywall got longer, and my front door began to stick, due to the frame shifting.

Was this due to the MTA? I have no idea. But I do know that the vibrations from construction have been unrelenting and overwhelming. I would be surprised if that didn't have an impact on the structural integrity of brick and mortar construction.

... to add to the above, I think the 2nd Ave subway is great and am all for it. But even before the emergency evacuation, the construction made our lives hell in the low-rise apartments: month after month of jackhammers or boring machines from dawn till midnight, six days a week for years...

My roommate who worked late into the night and needed to sleep during the day wanted to die. I cannot imagine anyone with small children could survive there.

I wish the city had taken the old low-rise properties around the launch box by eminent domain - which would eliminate concerns about their structural integrity - or given some other assistance to residents who've been stuck with leases they can't get out of.

It's really a bad situation (even if it was cool to have a bird's eye view of all the construction)."

This comment suggest that the construction work out on Second Avenue may have effected the structural integrity of this building, which is what I've heard some people in the neighborhood saying.

What the engineers at the DOB and MTA have to say about all this is still not known, at the moment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Retroreflectors Everywhere

95th Street on the SW corner
For the longest time I've been wondering what in the world this thing is. If you have been wondering too, now you're going to find out.

It's known as an Automatic Target Recognizing Station, and it's made by the Swiss company Leica Geosystems. This robotic device, and about 8 others just like it, are being used to survey the exact position of buildings and objects in the Second Avenue Subway construction zone.

The unit automatically surveys the area (over and over again) using special retroreflector targets (example shown below) that have been installed in and around on the work zone.

Once a target is acquired, the unit then precisely measures the horizontal direction, elevation angle and distance, with an angle measuring accuracy of 1" of arc, according to what I read in the specifications on the manufacturers website. The data collected can then be compared with a historical set of data to check for any movement (e.g. the wall of a building) over a period of time.

The data from these units will be used to monitor and check for any movement of the older buildings in the work zone -- in particular when the controlled blasting, in the southern end of the launch box, starts.

This is one of the retroreflector targets, up close.

If I had to guess, I'd say that there are about 100 of these targets on the buildings in the launch box work zone at the moment.

A side comment:
Similar retroreflector targets were placed on the Moon during the Apollo 11, 12 and 15 missions. Using this technology, scientists have been able to measure the distance to the Moon to an accuracy of about 3 centimeters (a little more than an inch), over an average distance of 385,000 kilometers (about 239,000 miles.)

94th Street, near the SW corner
Here you can see 2 more of the retroreflector targets.

1830 Second Avenue
A walk-up apartment building, with 10 units, built around 1920.

In this image the location of each retroreflector target is marked with a blue ring.

Left-click on the image for a close-up view.

The green rings mark the location of crack monitors that have been glued to the facade of this building. These gauges will show whether or not a particular crack is moving.

Although it is cutoff in the image, you can see that sidewalk sheds have been put up in front of the building. This was done, I've heard, because at least one large piece of the facade has fallen from the building. (Sidewalk sheds have been erected in the past year in front of almost all of the older buildings in the work zone.)

1814 2nd Avenue
on 94th, about 15 feet from the SE corner
A close-up look at a crack monitor, which is also known as a crack gauge, that has been glued to to the building.

92nd, NE corner
And here we have an image of 1768 Second Avenue / 301 East 92nd Street - a mixed use building, with 31 residential units and 3 commercial establishments.

An emergency Vacate Order was issued by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) on 6/29/09 for this building because it was found to be leaning to the north, 18" out of plumb.

Again, the location of each retroreflector target is marked with a blue ring.

The orange rings mark the location of vibration monitoring equipment.

With all of the monitoring equipment that has recently been installed here, one could assume that there is a great deal of concern about the structural integrity of this building.

btw. 91st and 92 - W side of the avenue
This is the robotic unit that is directly across the street from the building shown above.

92nd, NE corner
And this is as close a view as I could get of one of the vibration monitors that has been installed on this building.

301 East 92nd (the building shown above)
I found this taped to the police barrier that has been placed in front of the entrance to this building.

Left-click on the image for a view that is readable.

The paper on the left is an e-mail, from Council Member Daniel Garodnick, to the residents of 1772 Second Avenue -- the other residential building in the work zone that was issued an emergency Vacate Order by the DOB during June. I suppose that it was put up so that the residents of this building will know what Council Member Garodnick is doing to help with the hardship they now face.

What is even more interesting is the copy of the 2-page letter from the Coalition of East Side Elected Officials. This letter was sent by the Coalition on 6/17/09 to Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, and Magdi Mossad, The Manhattan Borough Commissioner at the Department of Buildings.

In the letter, the elected officials express concern about the structural stability of the buildings in the launch box work zone, between 92nd and 96th Streets. They also state that the building at 1774 Second Avenue has moved 3 1/2" in the past year and a half.

There's clearly a developing story here, that goes beyond the engineering and construction of a new subway line in New York City. As more details surface, I'll let you know.

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box

"More Concrete Testers Said to Be Under Investigation"
The New York Times - 7/13/09

Contract Packaging Information
An unofficial listing of
Second Avenue Subway (Phase One) contracts.

Announced Completion Dates
A summary of the completion dates that the MTA has announced,
over the years, for Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 9, 2009

Community Board 8 sent out an e-mail this morning,
with the following announcement:



The Second Avenue Subway project will be using a well established excavation technique called controlled blasting to facilitate the excavation of the Tunnel Boring Machine Launch Box. Controlled blasting activities are scheduled to begin early to mid July 2009.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has approved a controlled blasting plan for the area of 2nd Avenue between 91st and 93rd Street which will be carried out in coordination with the MTA and S3 Tunnel Constructors. All blasting will be conducted under the direction and regulations of the FDNY.

Blasting is permitted to take place during the approved Second Ave Subway working hours of 7am to 10pm., although, every effort will be made to limit blasting to daylight hours.

Blasting Procedures

All pedestrian and vehicle traffic will be temporarily stopped during each blast occurrence. Blasting will occur approximately 4 to 5 times daily, with each blast lasting no more than one minute.

There will be a warning whistle before each blast
  • 1 whistle as a warning sound
  • 2 whistles indicate the blast is imminent
  • 3 whistles indicate the blast is complete and all is clear.
Flagging personnel will be positioned at the north, south, east and west corners of the blast zone to inform and direct pedestrians.

Signs will be posted around the work site that will state:

As required by New York State regulations, all explosive materials are delivered to and from the work site daily.

Vibration and noise limits have been established by the MTA and the project designer. The vibration and noise readings will be monitored by the construction management team.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Marcus Book, Assistant Director, MTA NYC Transit Government and Community Relations at 646-252-2675 or Claudia Wilson at the work site at 212-792-9716


Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5, 2009

93rd, looking south
These signs have been setup in preparation for the "controlled blasting" that is planned for the southern end of the work zone (between a point just south of 92nd and a point just north of 93rd.)

The blasting, which will be supervised by the New York City Fire Department's Explosives Unit, is necessary so that bedrock that is currently inside the launch box can be removed. (For those interested, the regulations that govern blasting in New York City can be found in NYC Fire Code Local Law No. 26, Chapter 33.)

btw. 91st and 92nd streets, east side of street
This generator was setup about 3 weeks ago to provide power for lighting and other equipment that is being installed under the road decking.

near the SE corner of 92nd
I've heard that this square hole, in the deck of the launch box, is technically called a glory hole. (In this image the hole has temporarily been covered with two large steel plates.)

There will be 3 glory holes (1 at this location, a 2nd between 92nd and 93rd, and a 3rd [I assume] just north of 93rd]) in the decking over the launch box. The contractor will use these holes to remove the dirt, muck, rocks and other material from the launch box below -- and I assume that the tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be lowered into the launch box, in parts, through these holes.

By the way -- the project manager for S3 Tunnel Constructors announced at the last Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting that he expects that the TBM will be drilling it's way south to 63rd Street by the end of the year -- and that the planned rate of progress for the TBM, once it starts working, should be about 1 linear block per week.

92nd, looking N
An example of an access hole through the street decking. Note the protective steel cage that has been erected over the hole, to keep people and objects from falling into it.

btw. 92nd and 93rd streets
I believe that the tall object in this image is an exhaust fan. It will be used to provide air circulation in the cavern, under the street decking, that will become the launch box.

near the SE corner of 93rd
Work on the road decking continues on the east side of the work zone. The contractor has only about 100 linear feet of decking left to install, between a point just south of 93rd and a point just north of 93rd. At the rate they are going, the entire surface of the launch box will be decked over in just a few weeks.

btw. 93rd and 94th streets
Since this picture was taken, about a week ago, all of the decking has been installed in this area.

95th, SE corner - looking W
Here the contractor is working at the north bulkhead of the launch box.

96th Street, SE corner - looking N
And here you can see that the slurry mixing silos, that were across the street here, have now been removed. This location, at the moment, is being used to store various pieces of construction equipment.

97th street, SE corner - looking W
Century Lumber is still in operation at this location -- but as the sign suggests, they will be moving soon - to make room for the ancillary building that will be built on this site.

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box:

"A Review of Entrances and Ancillary Buildings of the Second Avenue Subway: a presentation prepared by BJF Planning"
CIVITAS presentation to the
Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force
on 6/29/09

"Second Avenue Subway - A Status Report"
DMJM Harris | AECOM - 17 pages - 6/13/08

Contact Details for the MTA's Second Avenue Subway Project Team
(i.e. if you want to call the Second Avenue Subway Hotline, get on the mailing list, or send the Project Team an e-mail.)